18 March 2017

As a Muslim, I strongly support the right to ban the veil

I was raised as an observant Muslim in a British family. Women, I was taught, determine their own conduct — including their ‘veiling’. We’d cover our hair only if we freely chose to do so. That’s why I’m baffled by the notion that all good Muslim women should cover their hair or face.

My entire family are puzzled by it too, as are millions like us. Not until recent years has the idea taken root that Muslim women are obliged by their faith to wear a veil.

It’s a sign, I think, not of assertive Islam, but of what happens when Islamists are tolerated by a western culture that’s absurdly anxious to avoid offence. This strange, unwitting collaboration between liberals and extremists has been going on for years. But at last there are signs that it is ending.

In response to cases brought by two veiled Muslim women from Belgium and France, the European Court of Justice has ruled that employers have the right to stop employees wearing visible religious symbols, including headscarves worn in the name of Islam.

This ruling includes not only the burka and the niqab (already entirely banned from the public space by a number of European countries) but also the face-revealing hijab. The ruling goes two ways: if the company does tolerate religious symbols, then no employee can be asked to take them off. [The Spectator] Read more

15 March 2017

Austrian colleges ban religious symbols after ECJ case

An education company in Austria has banned its staff from wearing visible religious symbols following the decision of the EU’s top court to allow such a block, local media said Wednesday.

BFI, which runs around a dozen vocational colleges across the country, said it had banned its employees from wearing “every kind of visible” religious symbol, the Kleine Zeitung newspaper reported.

In an interview hours after the European Court of Justice said it did not constitute “direct discrimination” to ban the wearing of any “political, philosophical or religious sign”, company executive Wilhelm Techt said his staff would comply with “Western culture”.

He told the newspaper: “We should transfer Western culture and values without misunderstandings. Therefore, educators have to work in Western clothes.” [Anadolu Agency] Read more

After EU headscarf ruling, UK PM May says government should not tell women what to wear

It is not right for government to tell women what to wear, British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday, after the European Union's top court ruled that companies may ban staff from wearing Islamic headscarves under certain conditions.

The Court of Justice's ruling on Tuesday, which also applied to other visible religious symbols, set off a storm of complaints from rights groups and religious leaders.

Asked about the ruling, May told parliament: "We have ... a strong tradition in this country of freedom of expression, and it is the right of all women to choose how they dress and we don't intend to legislate on this issue."

"There will be times when it is right for a veil to be asked to be removed, such as border security or perhaps in courts, and individual institutions can make their own policies, but it is not for government to tell women what they can and can't wear." [Reuters] Read more

Headscarves: PM May says European court ruling not to change UK law

Britain will not make changes to its laws following a ruling by the European Court of Justice that employers banning political and philosophical signs such as headscarves did not constitute direct discrimination, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday.

Tuesday’s ruling evoked a mixed reaction in Britain. Amid concerns in minority communities, May said in the House of Commons: “We have a strong tradition in this country of freedom of expression.

“Of course this case came up particularly in relation to the wearing of the veil - there will be times when it's right to ask for a veil to be removed, but it is not for government to tell women what they can and cannot wear and we want to continue that strong tradition of freedom of expression.”

Reacting to the ruling, the Muslim Council of Britain said, “It is a sad day for justice and equality. At a time when populism and bigotry are at an all-time high, we fear that this ruling will serve as a green light to those wishing to normalise discrimination against faith communities.” [Hindustan Times] Read more

How the media got the "Muslim headscarf ban" ruling wrong

It will be very hard for employers to legally ban women from wearing hijabs at work. But the far-right are already celebrating.

In the 24 hours since the European Court of Justice (ECJ) published its judgments relating to Muslim women wearing a headscarf at work, much ink has already been spilled on the issue. This seems to be by many who have either not read the judgments or, at least, have not understood them.

On the one hand, the far-right across Europe is celebrating the end of Islamic clothing. On the other, religious rights advocates are mourning the end of freedom of religion in Europe. Both groups seem to base their opinions about the judgments on exaggerated media headlines about the EU’s court banning the Muslim headscarf, and both groups are highly likely wrong.

One fundamental point to be understood is the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the extent of its powers. The ECJ provides guidance to domestic courts on specific questions of EU law that arise within a case, but does not actually decide the case.

In yesterday’s judgment of Achbita v G4S Secure Solutions NV, about a Muslim female receptionist who was dismissed for wearing a headscarf, the domestic court asked the ECJ a single, simple question: if an employer prohibits all employees from wearing religious symbols at work, is it direct discrimination under EU law if a Muslim woman is prevented from wearing a headscarf due to that policy? [New Statesman] Read more

The hijab ruling is a ban on Muslim women

This week’s decision by the European court of justice to allow the hijab to be banned in the workplace is yet another sign of the continent’s obsession with how Muslim women dress.

The ruling states that the hijab can be banned only as part of a policy barring all religious and political symbols – and so framed in a way that doesn’t directly target Muslim women. Indeed, the Conference of European Rabbis was outraged, saying that the ruling sent a clear message that Europe’s faith communities were no longer welcome – and a number of religious communities, including Sikhs, will be affected.

However, there’s no doubt that Muslims are the main group in the line of fire. That’s why far-right groups across the continent were so delighted with it. “Of course companies have to be allowed to ban the wearing of headscarves,” said Georg Pazderski, of Germany’s hardline Alternative für Deutschland. “Even the ECJ votes Marine [le Pen],” tweeted the French MP Gilbert Collard, a Front National supporter.

.... I have friends who have taken to wearing the hijab in recent years because they feel their Muslim identity has been threatened, and they have decided to take a stand for their faith.

The far-right, and now the European courts, may have succeeded in turning the hijab into something perhaps even more powerful than a symbol of religion, and turning it into a symbol of resistance too. [571 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 1034 votes] "the continent’s obsession with how Muslim women dress"

Surely it's the obsession of misogynist religious fanatics who want to deny women a public identity.

[2ND 842] The Koran says women should dress modestly, it says very little about what that entails. The headscarf is cultural, it is not religious.

[3RD 727] "The hijab ruling is a ban on Muslim women"

Great British Public "Oh, no it isn't"

Graunitariat and Muslim Council of Great Britain "Oh yes it is"

[4TH 632] This lady says the European court of justice is repressing women but says nothing about the repressive nature of Islam that requires women to wear these things.

[5TH 626] "the hijab doesn’t fit neatly under the bracket of being a “religious symbol”"

"I have friends who have taken to wearing the hijab in recent years because they feel their Muslim identity has been threatened"

Sounds a bit contradictory.

[6TH 619] "However, the hijab doesn’t fit neatly under the bracket of being a “religious symbol”".

Absolutely right. It's also a misogynist and patriarchal symbol, as well as a nod to a theocratic political ideology.

[7TH 554] its a ban, on a religious oppressive symbol, all oppressive symbols should be banned.

[8TH 528] "For its wearers the hijab is a core part of their way of life, linked to the way they choose to practise their faith. It is not up for debate."

The hijab is completely optional: women wear it because they choose to. That means it is well and truly up for debate.

[9TH 490] "I have friends who have taken to wearing the hijab in recent years because they feel their Muslim identity has been threatened, and they have decided to take a stand for their faith."

And I have friends in Turkey who have had to flee their country because the public and government pressure to cover their heads to even get a job in the Government, or walk comfortably down the street without being harassed, was overwhelming. [Guardian Cif] Read more

14 March 2017

What the EU Court ruling on headscarf bans means for Germany

The European Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday that employers may ban headscarves in the workplace in certain circumstances - an issue which has been heatedly debated in Germany in recent years.

The European Court of Justice ruling on Tuesday was based on two cases in France and Belgium of Muslim women who wanted to wear their headscarves to work. The main question was how to interpret anti-discrimination and equal treatment policies of the EU.

The court said that employers may ban headscarves if the company has a general ban on "political, philosophical or religious" symbols, and if there is good reason for a ban.

The decision also clarified under what conditions a ban would be allowed. For the woman in Belgium, who worked as a receptionist at a security firm, the court said her case did not constitute “direct discrimination” as the company had a general rule against displaying religious symbols.

But for the woman in France, the court said a ban was not justified. The design engineer was fired after a company client complained about her headscarf. The court said that this situation “cannot be considered an occupational requirement that could rule out discrimination." [The Local] Read more

European court rules employers can ban women from wearing Islamic headscarves and religious symbols

The European Court of Justice has ruled that companies can ban employees from wearing the Islamic headscarf, but only as part of prohibitions including other religious and political symbols.

It is the first case of its kind amid a series of legal disputes over the right for Muslim women to wear the hijab at work.

“An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination,” the court said in a statement.

“However, in the absence of such a rule, the willingness of an employer to take account of the wishes of a customer no longer to have the employer's services provided by a worker wearing an Islamic headscarf cannot be considered an occupational requirement that could rule out discrimination.” [The Independent] Read more

Pakistan to offer extra college credits to girls who cover their faces

Pakistan’s Minister for Higher Education has announced that girls who cover their faces will be given extra college credits. Minister Syed Raza Ali Gilani made the remarks while speaking at an Education Board meeting on Tuesday.

Speaking at the event, Minister Gilani said:

We are leaving our religion behind, we are forgetting our culture and ethics. Hence, I have made the hijab compulsory for our women and sisters in colleges

The minister added that it was his duty to take the step as it is “the duty of every Muslim”

Minister Gilani who is a graduate of Philadelphia University, USA went on to say that his Department will make it mandatory for girls in public colleges to wear the Hijab, he announced:

Female students would be required to wear the Hijab, and as an incentive, the Department of Education will allocate 5 extra attendance credits to those who have less than 65% attendance. [Rabwah Times] Read more

Saudi Arabia launches girls' council - without any girls

It was an encouraging initiative for a country not known for giving women a platform in public life.

But when Saudi Arabia wanted to show off its inaugural girls' council in al-Qassim province, they overlooked one thing: the women.

Pictures released to mark the first Qassim Girls Council meeting showed 13 men on stage, and not a single female.

The women were apparently in another room, linked via video.

The male-dominated photos have been circulating widely on social media, after the meeting took place on Saturday. [BBC] Read more

EU workplace headscarf ban 'can be legal', says ECJ

Workplace bans on the wearing of "any political, philosophical or religious sign" such as headscarves need not constitute direct discrimination, Europe's top court has ruled.

But the ban must be based on internal company rules requiring all employees to "dress neutrally", said the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

It cannot be based on the wishes of a customer, it added.

This is the court's first ruling on the wearing of headscarves at work.

The ECJ's ruling was prompted by the case of a receptionist fired for wearing a headscarf to work at the security company G4S in Belgium.

The issues of Muslim dress and the integration of immigrant communities have featured prominently in debates in several European countries in recent years. Austria and the German state of Bavaria have recently announced bans on full-face veils in public spaces. [BBC] Read more

13 March 2017

After playing all season, Maryland girl held out of basketball game for wearing a hijab

With the game out of reach and the season sputtering to a finish, Watkins Mill Coach Donita Adams made sure every girl played in the team’s first region final appearance. But Adams left Je’Nan Hayes sitting on the bench. She had no other choice.

“I didn’t even want to look down at Je’Nan in that moment,” Adams said. “I had not yet told her that she wasn’t allowed to play in the game because of her headscarf.”

The game was at Oxon Hill High in Prince George’s County on March 3. Hayes, a junior in her first season playing organized basketball, was not allowed to play because she wears a hijab as part of her Muslim faith. Before the contest, the head official informed Adams of a rarely enforced rule requiring “documented evidence” that Hayes needs to cover her head for religious reasons.

“I felt discriminated against, and I didn’t feel good at all,” Hayes said. “If it was some reason like my shirt wasn’t the right color or whatever, then I’d be like, ‘Okay.’ But because of my religion it took it to a whole different level, and I just felt that it was not right at all.”

The news that Hayes wasn’t allowed to play because of her hijab was first reported by The Current, Watkins Mill’s student newspaper. [The Washington Post] Read more

Iran Sentences American Citizen, Wife to Death for “Holding Mixed Parties” With Alcohol

A dual American-Iranian citizen and his wife have been sentenced to death by an Iranian court after being convicted of founding a “cult” and “holding mixed parties” that involved serving alcohol, the Financial Times reported Sunday.

Tehran prosecutor-general Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said in a statement on Sunday that the case “is related to a woman and man who provided alcoholic drinks, and encouraged corruption and debauchery by holding mixed parties.” Dolatabadi claimed that the man had stored 4,000 liters of alcoholic beverages in his home, in violation of Iranian law.

Though the couple has not been named, it is believed that they are owners of a Tehran art gallery who were arrested last July. They are reported to be members of the Zoroastrian religion, who under Iranian law are allowed to have alcohol for private purposes but forbidden from sharing it with Muslims.

The statement also noted that the couple had allegedly been “exhibiting and selling obscene images at [their] gallery,” and that they had founded “a new cult.” [TheTower.org] Read more

The Truth About Sweden

"I often use Sweden as a deterring example.”

The words are not those of Donald Trump, but Anders Fogh Rasmussen. In an interview with Swedish public television in January, the former NATO secretary general and Danish prime minister described Sweden's immigration policy as a failure and a warning to other countries.

But it was President Trump's unclear and slightly confused reference to Sweden during his February 18 rally in Florida that has turned attention to the Scandinavian country of 10 million and the details of its migrant experience. Sweden has accepted more refugees per capita in recent years than any other country in Europe.

"Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They're having problems like they never thought possible," Trump said. Since then, Swedes have seen facts about their country, and many exaggerations and misconceptions, used as arguments in an American domestic debate.

But there are, in fact, good reasons for Americans to care about Sweden's problems. First, because Sweden's failure to integrate its immigrants, in line with Rasmussen's observation, carries lessons for other countries; second, because Swedish news reporting and public discourse on immigration and integration are restricted by taboos.

Swedish journalists and public figures who have been outspoken about the problems—and transgressed what the Swedes call the "opinion corridor"—have risked being labeled xenophobes or racists. [The Weekly Standard] Read more

11 March 2017

Imams to be told to preach in English at mosques

Imams are to be encouraged to deliver their sermons in English under measures being prepared to rid Britain of hate preaching.

The Telegraph has been told that the counter-extremism taskforce is working on the plans amid concern that preaching in foreign languages enforces divisions between Islam and mainstream British society and can foster radicalisation.

Ministers have been inspired by some Middle Eastern countries that have begun urging that sermons be published in English online. A senior Government source said: “If imams are speaking in another language it makes it far harder to know if radicalisation is taking place.”

Measures are being prepared for the long-awaited counter-extremism proposals after an initial strategy was published in October 2015. Exact measures are yet to be finalised but one source said tougher licensing rules for foreign preachers was being considered.

Currently, imams from outside the European Union who visit Britain have to prove they can speak English before a visa is granted. However, sources have ruled out the introduction of any new licensing scheme for imams already in the UK because it could be seen as a curb on religious freedom. [The Telegraph] Read more

Sandwell Hospital halal kitchen plan criticised

A former patient’s daughter has hit out at Sandwell Hospital’s plans to create a separate halal kitchen.

The move comes as NHS bosses were criticised about the quality of meals there last year.

Loraine Yarnold’s mother Caroline Fellows died after 10 days in the hospital in 2014.

The 50-year-old said: “This kitchen would just be a diversion of resources they should not be doing. I don’t agree with it at all.”

A spokesperson for Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, said earlier this week that a separate halal kitchen was one of the best ways to provide a range of healthy halal options to patients and staff who want them. [Express & Star] Read more

Distrust of Islam soars among Victorians, survey reveals

Four out of five Victorians do not trust the Islamic faith, alarming new research for the state government has revealed.

A survey, conducted by an international consulting company, has found only 17 per cent of the general population trust Islam and a majority of Victorians believe a face veil "inhibits social inclusion".

More than 3000 Victorians who were surveyed rated Islam as the least-trusted institution.

Senior figures in the Victorian Government are worried this antipathy towards Islam has helped fuel the rise of extreme right views. [Herald Sun] Read more

09 March 2017

Swiss senate refuses nationwide burqa ban

The upper house of parliament has rejected the idea of a nationwide ban on the Islamic face veil and other face coverings.

The draft bill, which was narrowly passed by the lower house last September, was opposed by the senate after a debate on Thursday, reported news agencies.

The proposal by hardline Swiss People’s Party (SVP) MP Walter Wobmann called for a federal ban on the burqa, niqab and other full face coverings in public, along the same lines as a cantonal ban that came into effect in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino in July last year.

In March Wobmann launched a popular initiative to that effect, which has until September 2017 to gather the required 100,000 signatures to take the issue to a referendum.

On Thursday the senate followed the recommendation of a commission on the subject which advised against implementing a ban nationwide, saying it was not necessary since so few people in Switzerland wear the veil. [The Local] Read more

08 March 2017

Algeria: Don't Prosecute a Writer for Insulting Islam

Algeria's prosecutor's office should drop its criminal blasphemy investigation of a writer over his 2016 novel, Human Rights Watch said today. The Algerian authorities should uphold freedom of expression and take immediate steps to abolish the blasphemy law.

The judicial police in Tipaza, a city 70 kilometers from Algiers, interrogated Anouar Rahmani, a 25-year-old law student and novelist, on February 28, 2017. They told him that the public prosecutor had opened an investigation into "The City of White Shadows," a novel he published online in August 2016. They filed a report accusing him of insulting Islam in his novel. Rahmani is free pending a decision by the prosecutor on whether to charge him.

"It is not the business of the prosecutor to question the author about their religious beliefs," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. [AllAfrica] Read more

Italian region bans women in face veils from entering hospitals

The northern region of Liguria on Tuesday announced plans to ban the Islamic face veil from hospitals and other public institutions, in a bid to "defend women's freedom".

Regional president Giovanni Toti, of the Forza Italia party, described the burqa as "the worst symbol of the oppression of women". He defended the ban against accusations that it is discriminatory and possibly anti-constitutional.

"Those who live in Italy need to grasp and respect at least the minimum rules of equality between men and women," said Toti, who proposed the measure together with Liguria's health councillor, Sonia Viale of the far-right Northern League party.

The party's national leader, Matteo Salvini, was quick to praise the region for a "concrete initiative" to protect women's freedom in the midst of what he called a "flood of useless chatter that accompanies Women's Day".

Face coverings have been banned in public institutions in the neighbouring region of Lombardy since January 2016. [The Local] Read more

Muslim women urged to register their marriage at Bradford event

The ‘Register Our Marriage’ (ROM) Roadshow was led by solicitor Aina Khan.

Women in unregistered marriages are left without rights in a British court of law, in the case of divorce and unregistered marriages are steadily rising in the Muslim community.

Aina Khan was joined on the panel by Neil Addison, a barrister at the New Bailey Chambers in Liverpool, and Siddique Patel, head of family department at Kamrans Solicitors, one of West Yorkshire’s leading criminal defence firms.

"The Muslim Women’s Council receives calls daily from women enquiring about their marriage rights. Almost half of these calls are from women in unregistered marriages. Bradford is tipped to have the largest Muslim population in the country by 2030, a community which could be vulnerable to the downfalls of unregistered marriages, so it’s incredibly important for men and women in our community to know their rights." [ITV] Read more

Indonesia imprisons leaders of 'deviant' religious group on blasphemy charges

A court in Indonesia has found three leaders of the religious minority group, known as Gafatar, guilty of blasphemy and sentenced them to multiple years in prison.

The East Jakarta District Court awarded five-year prison terms to the community's founder, Ahmad Moshaddeq, and president, Mahful Muis Tumanurung. Gafatar spokesperson and vice president Andry Cahya received a three-year sentence.

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Presiding judge Muhammad Sirad ruled on 7 March, that the three men had "tarnished one of the religions in Indonesia deliberately in public", referring in particular to Islam. In his verdict statement, he said that the movement "contradicted and offended Islamic values held by most Indonesian citizens".

The Gafatar belief system combines the teachings of Islam, Christianity and Judaism but urges followers to give up certain Islamic practices like prayer, fasting and the Hajj pilgrimage. Indonesia being a country with a majority Muslim population, these opposing ideas have lead to public suspicion and accusations of "deviant teachings". [International Business Times] Read more

Don’t be complacent about the risk of President Le Pen

Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front National party has never been closer to power. That is not to say she will be elected president in May. When in 1962 Charles de Gaulle introduced direct universal suffrage for the presidential election, he cushioned it with a two-round voting system in which a 50% majority is required in the runoff.

Le Pen seems set to pass the first hurdle, but not the second. In that case, the biggest danger lies not so much in her entering the Elysée Palace, but in her party becoming the largest opposition force in the National Assembly after the parliamentary elections in June. But don’t be mistaken, a worst-case scenario is possible.

The fact is, the taboo of a far-right presidency no longer holds in France. Low turnout in the runoff, combined with political polarisation, more scandals or, even worse, outbreaks of violence, could make a Le Pen win possible. [741 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMEBT 496 votes] 'It is no exaggeration to say the fate of democracy in France and in Europe is at stake.'

If Le Pen gets elected, that's democracy.

[3RD 366] You're bang on.

The arrogance is unbelievable.

[2ND 429 ] "In today’s France it has become almost normal to say immigration and refugees are a problem". How unpleasant. People saying things. Can't have that. I imagine it is normal because people think it is an accurate refelection of reality. What is the writer suggesting here - that people should in some way be prevented from saying what they think the world is like?

[4TH 280] I sincerely hope she wins

[5TH 264] Guardian HQ just can't help themselves comparing Marine Le Pen and other "populist" leaders to Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich at any given opportunity. This decry of wanton hysteria does no one no favours.

[6TH 247] I'd have thought the Guardian would support the only woman in the game especially on International womens day! [Guardian Cif] Read more

The Muslim Brotherhood is creating a 'parallel social structure' in Sweden, aided by 'political elites' making it impossible to criticise Islam, government report admits

The Muslim Brotherhood is creating a 'parallel social structure' in Sweden with the help of 'political elites' who foster a culture of silence, a damning government report has found.

The document claims that the Brotherhood is building a 'parallel society' within the Scandinavian country, which can help the Islamist group to achieve its ends.

Founded in 1826, the Muslim Brotherhood aims to organise Muslims politically in order to create a global, Sunni Islamic Caliphate.

The group is arguably the largest Islamist organisation in the world and has in the past been linked to mainstream Islamic institutions, including to the Muslim Council of Britain.

The organisation has been accused of fostering links to militants and is classed as a terrorist organisation by the governments of Bahrain, Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. [1112 comments]

[TOP RATED COMMENT 5734 votes] When will Europe learn ?

[2ND 4803] Are we shocked NO ............. Its been happening in the UK for years

[3RD 3996] Bye to the Sweden we knew and loved.

[4TH 3862] Wake up Sweden! You are losing your country due to cultural Marxism of your Liberalist parties.

[5TH 3194] The new European war is nearly upon us all

[6TH 2603] A little more than concerning

[7TH 2556] My friends in Germany tell me it's the same there - the media dare not tell the truth and politicians and the police lie systematically.

[8TH 2481] Sweden is finished.

[9TH 2389 ] Why is it only Herr Farage and Sir Donald Trump that speak the truth...?

[10TH 2294] Liberalism = self hating self destruction mental illness. Sadly there are millions of suffers and growing. [Daily Mail] Read more

07 March 2017

'SHE NEEDS TO BE KILLED' Muslim teen girl, 17, suffers horrifying death threats after she is caught twerking in the street while wearing hijab

A MUSLIM teenager who was filmed twerking in Birmingham city centre while wearing a hijab has been targeted by vile trolls who said she is a “stupid b****” who “needs to be killed”.

The 17-year-old was out shopping with pals when she and a friend joined a street performer and began dancing.

Footage of her dancing was later uploaded online, and attracted a barrage of hateful comments.

One wrote: “That’s so disrespectful is you are wearing hijab you are representing Islam respect dignity so how to act like a fool that is a big disrespect.”

Another said: “Truly disgusting.

“Some people don’t understand the meaning of the veil.”

One even said she “needs to be killed”.

She later gave an emotional interview to Muslim YouTube star Ali Dawah.

The teenager, who has not been named, told him during a phone interview: “To all the girls that wear hijab and wear abayah, I’m sorry for disrespecting it. [The Sun] Read more